63 ASK THE EXPERTS If you have a question for our experts, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet us @craftfocus I have had to close my doors to my craft and stationery shop temporarily during the current pandemic. The Government furlough scheme offering to pay 80 per cent of my staff’s wages sounds too good to be true. Who pays the extra 20 per cent? What’s the catch? The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (“Scheme”) provides for the Government to reimburse employers for 80 per cent of the wages of all furloughed employees, up to a cap of £2,500 per month, per employee. In addition, employers can also claim back their minimum pension insurance contributions and National Insurance contributions in respect of the employee’s furloughed salary. Employees must be furloughed for a minimum of three consecutive weeks to enable employers to claim back their wages through the new HMRC Portal, which opened on 20 th April, allowing employers to now start claiming back the wages of Furloughed employees. Employers can, under the Scheme, pay only 80 per cent of an employee’s wages for the entire time they’re furloughed, provided the employer has obtained the employee’s agreement to the temporary reduction in their salary. When furloughing an employee, employers must obtain their written consent to being designated a furloughed employee, alongside any other changes they wish to implement (e.g., a reduction in salary) as, in essence, the employer is temporarily amending the terms and conditions of their employment. A Treasury Direction to HMRC has recently confirmed that employers are also required to obtain written agreement from the employee (which may be in electronic form, such as an email) that they will cease all work in relation to their employment during their period of furlough. In terms of the other 20 per cent of salary (or more for those employees who earn over £2,500 per month) which the Scheme does not cover, employers will be responsible for this amount to ‘top up’ their employee’s salary to 100 per cent of normal pay, unless the employer has obtained written consent from the employee to a salary reduction during their period of furlough to 80 per cent of salary, up to a maximum of £2,500 per month. If the employee has consented to such a reduction, there will be no obligation on the employer to make this additional payment to the employee. TINA CHANDER Tina Chander is a partner at leading Midlands law firm, Wright Hassall and deals with contentious and non-contentious employment law issues. She acts for employers of all sizes from small businesses to large national and international businesses, advising in connection with all aspects of employment tribunal proceedings and appeals. https://www.wrighthassall. co.uk/expertise/employment-law-and-hr We’re stil l receiving orders fr om our online retailers; how can I meet demand with a limited workforce? At Craft Buddy, our primary focus is making the working environment as safe for our staff as possible and adhering to all relevant government guidelines about social distancing. We’ve seen an increased demand in our products now that people are at home and we recognise the therapeutic benefits that our crafting ranges offer. Being able to help reduce stress and anxieties during this time period is key and we feel that it’s important for us to continue offering our ranges to families and individuals across the UK during this time period. To help meet the demand of online orders, we’ve taken the decision to operate beyond our normal hours of operation and open our warehouse seven days a week, with two members of staff going in each day. Understanding that we may not be able to meet our normal response times, we have informed all customers through the website, Facebook, mail shots and more that our dispatch times are approximately five working days, and we’ve found that by being upfront and honest with our customers is key to fostering a positive relationship with them at this time. It’s a testament to our great workforce who are all working together to ensure the smooth running of the business that we’re continuing to deliver on orders, and it’s their safety that comes first. DAN WARD Dan Ward is head of sales at Craft Buddy Ltd, suppliers of a range of craft supplies and kits, with brands including Crystal Arts, Forever Flowers and Pretty Gets Gritty. www.craftbuddyltd.co.uk AMANDA HAMILTON Amanda Hamilton is chief executive of the National Association of Licenced Paralegals (NALP), a non-profit membership body and the only paralegal body that is recognised as an awarding organisation by Ofqual (the regulator of qualifications in England). www.nationalparalegals.co.uk I’m a craft store owner but my business is currently closed during lockdown and as a result , I’m not in a position to afford or receive the pr oducts I’ve ordered. What are my legal duties and rights? Your legal duties and rights will depend on what your contract with your supplier states. Some contracts have what is known as a ‘force majeure’ clause within it, which covers relief from liability if certain events take place making it impossible to fulfil your obligations under the contract. However, these events usually have to be particularly specified and may refer to situations that are often referred to as ‘acts of god’, such as storms, other unusual weather events, wars or explosions. In some cases, these clauses may also include compliance with Government rules, directives, regulations or laws or other situations or specifically mentions other circumstances that may affect the supply of goods and services. If there is no such clause in the contract, then the contract may be deemed to be ‘frustrated’ meaning that a party against whom the contract is being enforced, may be able escape liability if they can prove it has been frustrated. This may be difficult to prove and may only be decided by the courts if the case gets that far. In times like these unprecedented that we are going through, there should be some understanding on both sides, since most businesses are going through the same experience.